If you’re looking for the best phones to walk into a store and buy today, there’s always a fundamental split between the two factions of the industry. Are you in Apple’s iPhone camp or are you an Android lover? So Byteside’s best smartphone selections come in two flavours. The best iPhones and the best Android phones.
If you’re walking in cold with no idea which smartphone you need? Our recommendation will lean toward iPhone. It’s the easiest platform to use and when you decide you need another one it will always feel the same in future. For those eager to dig under the hood of their smartphone operating system and tweak it to their personal perfection, Android will be your happy place – and you can definitely save a lot of dollars with Android too.
So how do we decide on the best smartphone to buy? Byteside picks are based on our own experience covering the consumer tech industry over the past two decades, as well as acknowledging the expertise of colleagues around the world and their opinions on the latest and greatest.
By including their perspectives in our decisions alongside our own, we think it’s the best way to deliver a direct recommendation on the best smartphones on the market.
The best phones
The best phone: iPhone 13 Pro
If you just want the best smartphone around and money is no object, we highly recommend the iPhone 13 Pro. Apple has continually outperformed the competition as an overall package and user experience, and the camera systems found in the iPhone 13 Pro deliver spectacular results.
Looking across the tech review industry, the iPhone 13 Pro has received the most recommendations as the best smartphone available. CNET, The Verge, Digital Trends, PC Mag, Tom’s Guide and more all pick the iPhone 13 as the best around, with some debate over whether the iPhone 13 or the iPhone 13 Pro is the best pick. With money off the table, we think the iPhone 13 Pro camera array now matching that of the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a huge win for those who want the best without needing to buy new pants to carry it around in.
The build quality of the Pro series iPhones is stunning. If you just want the best smartphone full stop and you’re not committed to the Android ecosystem, this is the one to buy.
The best iPhone: iPhone 13
Choosing the best iPhone out of the specific range comes back to balancing price against performance, and we think the iPhone 13 (not Pro) does just that. Wirecutter, The Verge, Finder, and more all choose the iPhone 13 as the ideal iPhone on the market today.
The biggest loss by staying away from the iPhone 13 Pro is the simpler two-camera array, removing the powerful 3x telephoto lens and the stainless steel chassis. Every other aspect of the iPhone 13 performance remains just as great as the Pro line, with the A15 processor delivering dazzling performance.
The best Android phone: Google Pixel 6
More phone review sites pick the Google Pixel 6 as their best Android smartphone than any other phone. The Pixel 6 was a powerful upgrade for Google’s smartphone range, with a gorgeous screen and great camera systems on offer plus the powerful new Tensor system-on-a-chip processor that says it delivers a big boost to AI processing.
The Google Pixel 6 sneaks in under the big four-digit barrier at $999, and the key reason to spend the $1,299 for the Pixel 6 Pro would be for the camera upgrades. The Pixel 6 features an excellent wide and ultrawide lens while the Pixel 6 Pro adds the 4x telephoto lens and an improved selfie camera. But overall, for most users, we think the Pixel 6 is a fantastic choice.
The best budget iPhone: iPhone SE (2nd generation)
If you just don’t want to cross over $1,000 for a new smartphone then the iPhone SE is still a great budget conscious choice. It’s modelled after the iPhone 8 chassis, keeping a Touch ID button on the front and a smaller overall size that many have found more comfortable in the hand. The camera is the significant step back from the latest model iPhones, but it’s no slouch and will still capture great memories if you’re not trying to take perfect pictures every day. If you love older iPhones and just want a new one of those, this is it.
Some experts are expecting a new third-generation iPhone SE to arrive in the first half of 2022, so if you can hold off a little longer that would instantly become our new recommendation in this spot.
The best budget phone: Samsung Galaxy A52
At around $549, we think the Samsung Galaxy A52 stacks up as the best phone on a budget that will serve you well for years. You can ignore the 5G upgrade ($100 more) for now as there’s a lot of life left in Australia’s 4G networks, but the A52 is right in a sweet spot of a wide range of Samsung ‘mid-range’ phones. You get a nice camera array, good battery life, a nice Snapdragon processor and just an all round ‘yep, that’s nice’ feeling without sensing any major compromise to keep the price this low.
The best cheap as chips smartphone: Nokia G10
If you really need to bring it in at a very low price but still want to call your phone a ‘smartphone’, we think the Nokia G10 is the best phone you can get under $200. There’s a lot of things that aren’t great – the camera is definitely disappointing – but with Nokia on the Android One program you are assured of getting core Android OS updates for the next two years plus an impressive three-year hardware warranty. There's fancier Nokia Android options out there too, like the Nokia X20 we reviewed last year, if you want more than entry level performance.
Nokia phones might come from a new maker these days, HMD, but they’ve returned to feeling sturdy in the hand and warranty like this gives confidence your phone is built to last regardless of how little you paid for it.